When Imam Modou Laye Ndao first heard about Tostan’s program to bring education on human rights, gender roles, governance, health, literacy, environmental issues and problem solving skills to his community, he was the first to embrace the idea. That was in 2007—and he’s been committed to working with Tostan to help improve life in the village of Keur Alpha ever since.

After participating in the “Empowering Communities to Empower Girls” project in partnership with the Nike Foundation, which included completing Tostan’s three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP) as well as a segment on gender norms, Keur Alpha was invited to participate in Tostan’s post-CEP project: Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP). Once again, as the religious leader of the community, Modou led the way for people to embrace change. This time, the focus was on ending violence against children.  

“The RPP is incredibly important for the village,” said Modou. “Before the project, the children in the village were beaten often. Now, we understand that we have to be considerate of our children, ask them about their opinions and feelings, and become closer with them. The children are now a lot cleaner and are allowed to stay in school all day, while they used to be called back home to help their parents with house work.”

In January 2014, Modou joined 66 other religious leaders from the Kaolack and Thiès regions for a workshop. The group discussed and explored the connections between the teachings of Islam and the lessons taught through the RPP. After examining how the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) raised his own children, the religious leaders came to the agreement that a nonviolent education is essential for all children. Modou added that the workshop “encouraged the imams to adhere to the teaching of the RPP and become engaged in the program.”

Modou returned from the workshop in Thiès with a vision for the children of his community. He  began using his Friday sermons and talks during ceremonies as an opportunity to talk about the need to end violence against children. Modou’s influence soon spread beyond the borders of Keur Alpha, as he used his own money to travel to neighboring villages up to 10 kilometers away with his message of nonviolence. 

He is eager to continue these efforts, and is working to acquire travel funds that will allow him to visit even more villages to spread the importance of a nonviolent education to as many communities as possible. Modou hopes that Tostan will continue to train religious leaders and reinforce their knowledge of the issues covered in the RPP so that more villages will be able to benefit from the program, especially in the municipality of Thiomby. “I am committed to the program and to working to end violence against children because it goes along with the teachings of Islam. All religions prohibit violence against children,” said Modou. “I am here for Tostan, for the well-being of my village and the villages that surround us,” he says.

Story by Charlotte Greenbaum, Reinforcement of Parental Practices Volunteer, Tostan